At Ace, a plumbing upgrade

From its 220, best-in-class plumbing stores, the co-op has learned that there is opportunity in this core category.

Part of Ace's innovative plumbing presentation.

Chicago – The plumbing aisle is widely considered the core hardware-store category that is most difficult to optimize. There’s a lot of moving parts, and a lot of pieces. And, as Ace Hardware’s John Surane pointed out during the co-op’s general session, there’s been a lot of change.

“The plumbing market has changed significantly,’ said Suarne, the co-op’s EVP of merchandising, retail operations, business to business and wholesale holdings. Speaking to the assembled hardware dealers at the Ace Hardware Fall Convention & Exhibits here in Chicago, he added: “And we haven’t changed fast enough with it.”

This Oak Brook, Illinois-based co-op is making up for lost time on the market floor, where the Discovery Edge area showcased new plannograms, new assortments and new plumbing presentations. The demonstration area included space-saving sliding panels, neat see-through bins and point-of-purchase signage from plungers to pex fittings.

The new plumbing assortment is partially the result of the co-op’s analysis of the category and of 220 “best-in-class” Ace stores, based on total plumbing sales, total contractor sales and the ratio of contractor sales to total plumbing sales.

The company learned that many dealers may be leaving money on the table, or more accurately, leaving money in the plumbing aisle. Best in class plumbing stores perform three times better than other stores in sales and gross profit. They also produce $8 higher average tickets. These numbers are drawn from all formats, densities and competive environments, the co-op said.

One of the changes happening in the plumbing market in general is the delince in DIY spending. Meanwhile, the pro market is growing at a rate in excess of 5%. 

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